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June 16, 2011

Gingrich’s presidential campaign moves from delusion to dementia
Posted by Teresa at 11:18 AM *

Commenting on his most recent campaign disaster, the resignation en masse of his senior campaign staff, Newt Gingrich has said that he feels liberated:

My vision is of a people-oriented grassroots campaign where Newt.org becomes the center of new solutions, new ideas, new energy—a campaign that’s inclusive, that brings together everybody in America, of every ethnic background, who wants to change Washington.

And I think that that was so different from the normal Republican model, that there just wasn’t a fit. I frankly feel liberated.

With the exception of only one person, all of my original team is still with me. And in every single state where we lost some people, we’ve actually gained new people who are excited by the idea that we could have a genuinely different grassroots campaign to change Washington.

This immediately put me in mind of Jefferson Davis’s famous proclamation following the loss of Richmond:
To the People of the Confederate States of America.
Danville, Va., April 4, 1865.

The General in Chief of our Army has found it necessary to make such movements of the troops as to uncover the capital and thus involve the withdrawal of the Government from the city of Richmond.

…[T]he loss which we have suffered is not without compensation. For many months the largest and finest army of the Confederacy, under the command of a leader whose presence inspires equal confidence in the troops and the people, has been greatly trammeled by the necessity of keeping constant watch over the approaches to the capital, and has thus been forced to forego more than one opportunity for promising enterprise. … We have now entered upon a new phase of a struggle the memory of which is to endure for all ages and to shed an increasing luster upon our country.

Relieved from the necessity of guarding cities and particular points, important but not vital to our defense, with an army free to move from point to point and strike in detail the detachments and garrisons of the enemy, operating on the interior of our own country, where supplies are more accessible, and where the foe will be far removed from his own base and cut off from all succor in case of reverse, nothing is now needed to render our triumph certain but the exhibition of our own unquenchable resolve. Let us but will it, and we are free. …

The roles recently played by Gingrich’s top aides were in that instance taken by General Joseph Johnston and General P. T. Beauregard, who privately concluded that Davis had cut all ties with reality.
Comments on Gingrich's presidential campaign moves from delusion to dementia:
#1 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 12:25 PM:

Johnston and Beauregard were personal enemies of Davis since early in the war, so their account of his actions should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 12:44 PM:

General consensus in New Hampshire is that the big winner out of the Republican Candidate Debate was Sarah Palin for having the good sense to not be there.

#3 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 12:47 PM:

So as a Presidential campaign, Gingrich's has been deeply weird. Of course, it's not really one. It's an advertising campaign for Gingrich as a paid speaker. Possibly also for his next book.

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 12:50 PM:

Joseph Johnston? I like his 1991 movie "The Rocketeer".
("Serge, not that Joe Johnston.")
Oh.
Nevermind.

#5 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 01:14 PM:

I'll admit I don't understand WTF Gingrich is up to here. Is he just trying to get attention? Does he imagine he somehow has a chance of winning? Even given the lackluster field he's competing with, I don't see how, though he surely knows a lot more about politics than I ever will. Perhaps Gingrich and Palin have simply discovered that running for high office is a good way to improve your chances of getting a talk show on Fox or something?

In general, our political leadership seems to me to make weirdly dysfunctional decisions all the time. Recognizing that is an excellent antidote for any tendency you might have to accept politicians' decisions on the theory that "they know more than I do."

#6 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 02:01 PM:

When my daughter was little, we used to watch a TV program called 'Eureka's Castle', kind of a lower-budget muppets thing. It had a character named Batly on it, a particularly clumsy bat, who would keep crashing into things and then loudly proclaim "I meant to do that!"

Yeah.

#7 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 02:01 PM:

I am now kicking myself for not having had the foresight to register "newt.org" in the persona of Gussie Fink-Nottle.

#8 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 02:10 PM:

Jeff Davis' little ode there reminds me of the Iraqi Minister of Information, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf aka "Comical Ali"

per Wikipedia

On April 7, 2003, al-Sahhaf claimed that there were no American troops in Baghdad, and that the Americans were committing suicide by the hundreds at the city's gates. His last public appearance as Information Minister was on April 8, 2003, when he said that the Americans "are going to surrender or be burned in their tanks. They will surrender, it is they who will surrender".

#9 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 02:13 PM:

On the one hand, I don't think Newt can win his primaries.

On the other hand, I seem to remember John McCain's campaign nearly grinding to a halt at a similar point in the last cycle. McCain was down to one or two staffers and flying coach.

So, the fat lady has not yet sung in Newt's opera.

#10 ::: gottacook ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 02:25 PM:

Another fine example of this sort of statement: the copy beginning "This is a new phase Beatles album..." on the back cover of the Beatles' LP Let It Be (which was released almost simultaneously with Paul's first Apple LP McCartney). New phase, all right.

#11 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 02:29 PM:

"I meant to drive off everyone with experience and surround myself with enthusiastic newbies who have no idea how far up the creek we really are."

#12 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 02:35 PM:

Apparently Newt and Callista are a package deal, and that's going to keep the pro's away. He could be angling for a key slot in a GOP admin.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 02:43 PM:

I remember the late San Francisco columnist Herb Caen quoting someone who, new to Newt, thought that 'Newt Gingrich' sounded like a character from "Dune".

#14 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 02:59 PM:

I read...

My vision is of a people-oriented grassroots campaign where Newt.org becomes the center of new solutions, new ideas, new energy—a campaign that’s inclusive, that brings together everybody in America, of every ethnic background, who wants to change Washington.

and I see...

We don't need experienced campaign staff! We can just crowdsource it like those Wikipedia folks do. How hard can it be?

#15 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 03:01 PM:

albatross @ 5:

I think Gingrich has completely failed to understand the changes in his own party over the last 15 years. He thinks he's a well-respected elder statesman of conservatism. Actually, everybody has forgotten who he is (political memories in the US rarely go back to before the previous election), and the party has been hijacked by His Bloviatitude Rush Limbaugh, who isn't even a politician, just a meat puppet for the kingmakers behind the scene.

Chris Gerrib @9:

On the gripping hand, the GOP was nowhere near as doctrinely ossified in 2008 as it is now. Their need to propitiate the Tea Baggers by applying various non-rational litmus tests ("Kill Medicare!", "Cut Taxes!", "Reduce Deficit!", "Kill the Poor!", etc.) has made it impossible for Newt to be nominated since he dissed Paul Ryan's Middle Class Reduction Plan.

#16 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 03:29 PM:

"The People still love me. Argle, bargle, dribble, burble..." -- R. Nixon

#17 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 03:30 PM:

It will be interesting to see what the GOP candidates do over the next 12 months. What will they do to try and distinguish themselves from each other? With the far-right basically calling the shots, will they all try to see who can the furthest to the right? Or will they start the circular firing squad and begin tearing each other's records apart.

Watching someone like Santorum criticize Bachmann, who's busy ripping Gingrich who is after Romney, will be sheer entertainment.

#18 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 03:43 PM:

Newt has been very successful convincing the chattering classes that he is a Serious Conservative Intellectual with Bold Solutions to Today’s Problems. In this role, he has been very successful getting on the talk shows, getting his face in the newspapers, and maneuvering within the institutional structures of the Republican Party.

But as a politician, he has been, at best, mediocre. His high-water mark was the Contract with America in 1994; I think his popularity on a national scale has been on the skids ever since the 1996 government shutdown.

#19 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 03:45 PM:

When exactly in 2012 the world supposed to end?

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 03:50 PM:

@Serge: After election, unfortunately.

#21 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 03:55 PM:

I believe you mean After election, obviously.

#22 ::: Matthew Ernest ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 04:01 PM:

The Jeff Davis reference is doubly interesting considering that Newt is also an author of alternate history including co-authoring a series where the Confederacy won Gettysburg.

#23 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 04:51 PM:

Matthew Ernest @ 22:

I suspect that Newt, along with many other social conservatives and Civil War revanchists secretly envies the slave-owning class of the Old Confederacy. I can't see any other reason why so many people today deny that the primary purpose of Secession was to preserve the institution of chattel slavery.

#24 ::: Ken ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 05:02 PM:

albatross @5 and others: It's like Green Lantern. As a member of the Distinguished Elder Statesman Corps, Newt can work great wonders - or at least do and say things that make you wonder - and fill up his bank account. But every now and then he has to recharge or he loses his power to appear on Sunday news shows. A failed run for president is roughly equivalent to a Lantern.

#25 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 05:02 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 15 - you and I have the same assessment of Newt's probability of getting nominated (low). Where we disagree is in the significance of his campaign staff walking out. Candidates have recovered from that.

#26 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 05:23 PM:

Steve C., #12: Yes, I did notice that the departing staffers found a way to blame the wife instead of coming out and saying that the candidate had gone around the bend.

abi, #14: And I see a deeply-deficient understanding of what the Obama campaign did in 2008. Trying to mimic that approach without the professional-level underpinnings that made it work... well, it's going to be fun to watch, in the "bring popcorn" sense.

#27 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 05:29 PM:

"It's like Green Lantern."

What color is he vulnerable to?

#28 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 05:37 PM:

Serge #13: He certainly acts like a Harkonnen!

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) #15: He thinks he's a well-respected elder statesman of conservatism. Actually, everybody has forgotten who he is...

While those of us who do remember him, remember he was a major point man for the neocon takeover of both the Republican Party and Congress. Not to mention his "Contract on America", and all the other abuses he's inflicted on those around him. If any one person embodies the corrupt goals, hypocritical propaganda, determined viciousness, and utter narcissism of the neo-conservative movement, that would be Newt Gingrich.

#29 ::: Tangurena ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 06:04 PM:
The problem was the wife. Aides to Newt Gingrich have resigned from his presidential campaign in protest of what they felt was a takeover by Callista Gingrich, the candidate’s wife since 2000.

The last straw for the campaign staff was Gingrich’s decision to go on a two-week cruise in the Mediterranean, from which he returned on Tuesday. His advisers urged him not to go and take so much time from a campaign that was already in trouble. But his wife wanted him to go and she won the argument.


Source

I think that the cruise involved was one of the ones that The Weekly Standard hosts occasionaly. John Bolton has been a regular speaker on them. And I think Newt was a speaker on this one.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 06:18 PM:

David Harmon @ 28...

"As you instructed me, I have enlightened your nephews concerning my plan..."
"My plan!"
"...the plan... to crush the Democrates."

#31 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 06:21 PM:

"We claim more territory with every mile we drift" -Aguirre, the Wrath of God

#32 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 06:21 PM:

Serge at @ 30 -

Would this make Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann the Spice Girlz?

"He who controls the Spice Girlz controls the universe!"

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 08:34 PM:

Steve C #32: Which one's Alia and which one's Chani?

#34 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 09:15 PM:

I realise that US politics (and presidential campaigns in particular) generally have the same connection to observable reality as the average "reality" TV show does, but honestly... this has gone past surreal, through absurd and off into the territory of the unbelievable.

I mean, somewhere in the whole mess, there has to be someone who realises the US empire is a crumbling wreck, your economy has gone down the gurgler, your infrastructure is falling to pieces, your social fabric has gaping holes everywhere and the whole thing is going to hell in a hand basket? Surely there is someone who sees this? Or have they already made their plans (which probably consist of checking jobs pages in other countries, and making sure their passport is up to date), and are now in the "keep your head down and try and escape while the rest aren't looking" stage?

The election itself won't be happening for at least another year and a half. However, the US political machine has ground to a halt, and will remain so while the fun and games of presidential primaries (aka party pre-selection of candidates - something which in just about every other civilised country happens quietly behind closed doors) distracts everyone from whatever is happening around them. Now, the last time we had this happening (back in 2007 - 2008) there was something else important happening in the background which really could have used the attention and energy which was being devoted to the political posturings and convulsions of the US Republican Party in media all over the world. I'm just trying to remember what it was... oh yeah! It was the US economy collapsing in a heap as the banks realised they couldn't sell nothing as something forever - I believe the other label people found for it when the full scale of the catastrophe came out was GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS?!?

We still haven't recovered from that one. Hells, most of the world is still in a global recession from that one. And now the entire planet is expected to put their lives and fortunes on hold again, while the USA performs their political sideshow. What will we discover lying broken on the doorstep in late October 2012, I wonder?

#35 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 09:27 PM:

The election itself won't be happening for at least another year and a half.

This is just exactly why this happens. There's no "at least." Unlike countries with parliamentary systems, we know exactly when the next election is, to the day. We know when the election after next is, and the one after that.

We can predict when the mid-22nd-century elections will be, in the unlikely event our country survives that long.

That's why the cycle starts so early. Whoever thinks more moves ahead wins, as in chess. So people get in earlier and earlier.

#36 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 10:46 PM:

My vision is of a people-oriented grassroots campaign where Newt.org becomes the center of new solutions, new ideas, new energy—a campaign that’s inclusive, that brings together everybody in America, of every ethnic background, who wants to change Washington.

"Rarely has such a meaningful mandate for change been delivered by voters"- Contract With America, 3rd paragraph.

How'd that hopey-changey thing work out for you in 1994?

#37 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2011, 11:40 PM:

Xopher @35 - "Whoever thinks more moves ahead wins, as in chess. So people get in earlier and earlier."

This is part of what I have a problem with, as someone who isn't even a US citizen. The problem is your political process has become a game for your idle rich, and it's a game they're going to carry on playing regardless of what happens in the world around them. The metaphor of Nero harping away in the Imperial palace while the city burned around him has never been more appropriate, as far as I can tell.

The last time we sat through the standard multi-year process of a US presidential election, the fever of press enthusiasm masked the symptoms of a massive economic downturn in the USA - something which would have global repercussions, and which would have global effects. Those effects are still ongoing, but your politicians don't care about them; or to be honest, they don't have to care about them. The US political class is the US idle rich - people who don't have to have a functioning economy at the lower levels in order to survive. They're more interested in seeing who can pull politics furthest in one ideological direction purely as an intellectual exercise. They don't have to deal with the after-effects of their decisions on ordinary people, because they're so well-insulated from the ordinary people that they might as well be existing on a completely different planet.

I can't help but wonder (as someone outside the immediate range of the US presidential sideshow, but who is still affected by this sideshow) what the next damn thing we're going to find floating to the surface is going to be. Your current president has your country not-at-war in five different countries at the moment (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and now Yemen), while your economy and your infrastructure crumble. There is no serious effort at hand to actually provide the people of the USA with economic relief, disaster relief, health care or work - instead you have the Republican party across any number of states involved in a concerted effort to remove any protection for workers, for women, for poor people, for public employees, for public school students, for the sick, the indigent or anyone else who isn't part of the political classes (i.e. anyone who isn't a member of the idle rich). Your country is falling apart - I mention this just in case nobody there has noticed.

And yet the thing which it appears is more important at this juncture is to criticise the harp-playing of the various candidates for imperial office.

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 12:10 AM:

The metaphor of Nero harping away in the Imperial palace while the city burned around him has never been more appropriate, as far as I can tell.

It wasn't a harp. It was a lyre. And so are most Republicans.

They're more interested in seeing who can pull politics furthest in one ideological direction purely as an intellectual exercise.

Wrong. It's a profit-making enterprise. And they're thinking short- to medium-term.

Your country is falling apart - I mention this just in case nobody there has noticed.

I disagree. 'Falling apart' sounds like the problem is neglect; actually, the Republican Party is actively sabotaging our political and economic systems. They apparently want to completely destroy this country so that it breaks up into a very large number of small, warring factions. Maybe it's for a bigger market for weapons, I'm not sure. But they're destroying America, and they're doing it on purpose.

What to do about it is a harder question to answer.

#39 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 12:29 AM:

Xopher, I think we're in violent agreement here that there's something broken. Unfortunately, I'm just too annoyed at the moment to slow down the process of irritation to something comprehensible to other people, so I'll have to beg off the argument. I hope you don't mind.

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 12:54 AM:

Meg, Xopher, as Miss Teresa explained some years back, it's a blowout scam.

There's no reason to think that the plan isn't going ahead.

#41 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 01:04 AM:

Fragano @ 33:

I would think it's obvious: Palin has to be St. Alia of the Knife.

Meg Thornton @ 37:

Your current president has your country not-at-war in five different countries at the moment (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and now Yemen)

About to be 6: I've been hearing talk that "we" can no longer accept the violence in Sudan; Hilary Clinton has been talking about some sort of peace-keeping force there. And maybe 7, if enough of the violence in the Mexican border states starts leaking over into Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

Your country is falling apart - I mention this just in case nobody there has noticed.

The 300 million of us who aren't politicians have noticed; we just can't seem to get any agreement on what to do about it, with all the capitalist running dogs stirring up the pot.

#42 ::: long ago ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 01:39 AM:

"nothing is now needed to render our triumph certain but the exhibition of our own unquenchable resolve. Let us but will it, and we are free."

A fine example of what Matt Yglesias calls "the green lantern theory" of diplomacy.

Will alone is sufficient to accomplish anything. Planning doesn't matter. Coherent objectives don't matter. Logistics are unimportant. Mere willpower will ensure victory. And if you are losing, then you simply need to will it harder. Anyone who expresses doubts or asks hard questions is undermining victory and must hate America.

When we heard this throughout the Bush regime years, it was clearly a sign of the Neo-Confederate DNA in the modern Republican party. Is it always and everywhere a symptom of neo-Confederate thinking? Probably not--I don't think Baghdad Bob was a secret re-enactor. But in America, it generally is.

#43 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 04:22 AM:

James D. Macdonald @ 40: Thanks for the link to Teresa's blowout scam post - I've seen cousins of that scam, some of them legal, but I haven't had the full concept in my head before. That's some pretty valuable self-defence information, there.

Also a useful addition to the Plot Hamper, and as such a public service to spread in song and story. Dessert topping and a floor wax!

Granted, I'd be happy to live without the fiction, could we only live without the fact also...

#44 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 06:54 AM:

Who is our Sinestro in the Green Lantern theory?

#45 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 07:19 AM:

There has to be someone who realises the US empire is a crumbling wreck, your economy has gone down the gurgler, your infrastructure is falling to pieces, your social fabric has gaping holes everywhere and the whole thing is going to hell in a hand basket?

There are plenty of people who realize this; that this is the case is as close to a consensus as there is in American politics.

What there is no consensus on is what a solution would look like. Every plausible solution set, at least 20% of actively-engaged citizens are convinced will make things worse.

#46 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 07:31 AM:

long ago #42: Actually, I'd say it's more a sign of bullshitters in general... it's prominent here simply because at this point, the neocons have burned through all of their intellectual cover and chaff -- all they have left to cover up that blowout scheme, is lies, demagoguery, persecution of their "enemies", and lots of propaganda.

Unfortunately, "by will alone" is also a classic form of magical thinking, and as such, it's really easy to push with propaganda, and defends itself well against rational argument.

#47 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 08:20 AM:

I was reading Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad, and he mentioned that the surrender of the German army in Stalingrad (trapped by Operation Uranus) came ten years after the Nazi's gained power in Germany. And it cracked the image of Goebbels' propaganda machine. Ordinary Germans started tuning to foreign radio stations. The Russians put letters from PoWs on propaganda leaflets, with a request to pass on the news to these soldiers families.

We're already reading the equivalent of the foreign news. What would it need for people to stop believing the party line, even if they continued to repeat those slogans in public?

#48 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 10:23 AM:

Clearly, he's trying to bootstrap the narrative causality process.

#49 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 11:00 AM:

Dan R:

ISTR some line in a book along the lines of "we noticed that each of our great victories against the Russians was closer to Berlin."

It's not easy to see what to do about a broken, corrupt media, though. The more you seek out alternative news and information sources, the more places you see that the US MSM provides an incomplete, systematically distorted picture. But to have a conversation with anyone else, you have to agree on a picture of reality. When you can't count on even the most basic kinds of agreement about the shape of the world, it becomes very hard to come to any agreement about what to do. Fragmenting our information sources has the effect of making that kind of agreement much harder--especially as so many people apply a kind of ideological pre-filtering of sources of information, so that they'll respond to an article documenting some important thing by saying "I wouldn't read anything from that [liberal/conservative/anti-American/racist/French/Jewish/Islamic] bunch of bastards."

#50 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 11:22 AM:

Would people care to mention their favorite non-MSM sources? I seem to have a thrown together pile of blogs plus NPR and the BBC (I'm not sure how mainstream they are by American standards).

#51 ::: Steve C ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 11:26 AM:

Nancy @ 50 - I don't know if you would consider it a source (it's more of an aggregator) but I love Zite on my iPad. You tell it what your interests are and it gathers information and puts it together into a digital magazine.

http://www.zite.com/

#52 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 12:08 PM:

albatross at 49: exactly. When you can't agree on a set of facts, and you can't turn to the professional news media for information because information isn't what they do, you have -- what we have.

#53 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 12:44 PM:

It's not just America. Greece is effectively bankrupt, Portugal and Ireland nearly so; their default will probably take down the Euro. I suspect that the EU will be gone faster than the US. The oil is running out, resources are running out and the food is running out. The oceans are rapidly emptying of anything more complicated than jellyfish; eco-systems are becoming more threadbare, soils are being depleted and the poles are melting. We are already past the point where we could hold warming at two degrees, and four is looking more likely. Human population is continuing to rise, and the world's financial system is kaput.

Meanwhile, at least 28% of the US population has effectively taken a vacation from reality, and exists in a self-referrential, self-reinforcing media bubble in which none of the above is happening - effectively paralysing the body politic.

Right now the most likely "it all turns out ok" scenario I can imagine involves benign aliens turning up to bail us out. Because anything else requires a much stronger suspension of disbelief.

#54 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 12:45 PM:

Bruce 41: I would think it's obvious: Palin has to be St. Alia of the Knife.

With Rush Limbaugh as the Baron Harkonnen? "That damned Baron has her!"

#55 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 01:15 PM:

Andy, #53: Yeah. I've been thinking longingly about Clarke's Overlords for quite a while now. Their overarching principle was simple: "You folks can run your planet any way you like, as long as you don't hurt each other. If/when you do, we'll stop you."

#56 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 01:49 PM:

#55 ::: Lee

Were the Overlords worth it?

#57 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 05:07 PM:

Nancy:

Democracy Now does an hour long news show weekdays that's available as a podcast, and is pretty good. They have a viewpoint, and I suspect there are issues they will have a hard time being neutral about, but they also cover stuff that gets little coverage elsewhere, often at great depth. They usually have one or more detailed interviews or discussions with people worth hearing from, and the length and lack of commercial interruptions means you can really get a lot of information/ideas from the person being interviewed.

Charlie Rose has an interview show. You can search for old shows on his website. I find some of these interviews just wonderful, as a way to get access to what some interesting person is thinking.

Otherwise, NPR, BBC, El Pais, and several blogs.

#58 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 05:45 PM:

Nancy @50:

We started watching Al Jazeera during the Egypt uprising, and did some compare-and-contrast between it and the Beeb after the Japanese earthquake. The fact:hype ratio made the BBC look awfully shabby and tabloid by comparison.

(This is probably because AJ has done a serious brain-drain on the Beeb.)

#59 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 06:17 PM:

Nancy, #56: Have you read the book? If you have, that's an odd question to ask. If you haven't, it would be better to find out for yourself.

#60 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 06:30 PM:

Two of my news sources:

Facing South (progressive, focus on Southeast US).

ProPublica ("an independent, non-profit newsroom").

#61 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 07:40 PM:

#59 ::: Lee

I've read the book. I consider it to be ambiguous about whether the human race transcended or was eaten.

#62 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 11:08 PM:

Newt claims to be a historian. He should have recalled the maxim of drug dealers that you don't consume your own product. The Green Lantern theory represents a particularly jingoistic, "inspirational" kind of historiography.

This is also Victor Davis Hanson's problem, but at least he isn't running for president.

#63 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 04:28 AM:

I'm really curious about why Newt's staff left him. Aside from that I'm bored with sex scandals, I've never heard of a staff bailing out like that before.

There are reasonable guesses about what they were thinking, but why didn't they each think "Bad economy, I'll take another year and a half's worth of salary"?

#64 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 07:34 AM:

sara @ 62... Newt claims to be a historian

A pyscho historian?

#65 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 07:50 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #61: Now that is an odd thing to say! Unless you equate joining the larger mass as being "eaten", and IIRC Clarke made it quite clear that this was part of a long-standing galactic life-cycle, and did allude to an alternative -- an implicit "humanity uber alles" scenario, with an Overlord dubbing that "cancerous".

#66 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 07:57 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #63: Bailouts like that usually mean the candidate and/or the situation have gone pretty mental. In this case, my impression is that Newt may well have gone and found a wife even nastier than himself, who's insisted on running his campaign. Note that that's not from any info I have about Callista herself, I'm just reading it from the article of the Teresa's first link.

#67 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 09:03 AM:

#65 ::: David Harmon

My alternate reading might be excessively paranoid, but the Overmind is also spreading through the stars-- is it just a cancerous growth preempting the competition?

Does it matter that consent is irrelevant to it?

Just speaking for myself here, but I feel as though I was a lot more misanthropic when I was a kid, and more willing to empathize with a point of view which implied that the human race was no great loss.

When it occurred to me to be cynical about the Overmind, I felt as though I'd been hypnotized by the pretty colors.

Maybe it really was transcendence, but we can't tell from here. I just realized when I was writing this... Childhood's End is an early example of a Singularity story, possibly the earliest one.

#68 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 09:05 AM:

Newt may well have gone and found a wife even nastier than himself

Oh, come on. Is that really plausible? I mean, Ilse Koch is dead.

#69 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 09:26 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #67: The problem is, that particular brand of "paranoia" can be applied to anything -- consider Manicheanism, which applies the same pattern to Christianity itself.

I feel funny spoilering something this old, but:
Jr frr rabhtu bs bhe "Bire-srghf"'f cbjre gb ernyvmr gung vs gur Birezvaq jnf whfg "ryvzvangvat pbzcrgvgvba", vg pbhyq sne zber rnfvyl unir renfrq hf ragveryl, ybat orsber jr qrirybcrq gb punyyratr vg. Rira jura Pynexr jnf jevgvat gur fgbel, jr'q nyernql frra n snve ovg bs ubj uhznavgl unf qrfcbvyrq bhe cynarg ol gerngvat rirelguvat gurl rapbhagrerq nf "bcra sbe rkcybvgngvba".

It's not unreasonable that a greater consciousness would see our insistence on "conquering the universe as humans" in much the same light as we see a four-year-old's insistence that "when I grow up I'm gonna do anything I want!".

#70 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 09:35 AM:

me #69, addendum: That last sentence should also be taken as applying to the "consent" question. I used to know a fellow named Nico Garcia, a Type I diabetic. At one point, he wrote a comment to the effect of: "When I was 7 years old, I went up to my parents and told them I wasn't going to take the [insulin] shots anymore. They didn't 'respect my autonomy', they held me down and gave me the shots. And that's why I'm here to write this today." When I lost touch with him, he was well into his forties, and tight insulin/sugar discipline was surely a big part of how he'd lived that long.

#71 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 12:34 PM:

David Harmon @ 70: That sort of story is heart-warming only to the degree that the parents are both omniscient and benevolent. Minus either, it rapidly becomes nightmarish. In my experience, stories of the form "When I was a kid I wanted X, but adults made me Y" are rarely so pleasant as that one.

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 01:01 PM:

heresiarch, would you accept 'well-informed' as a friendly amendment to 'omniscient'? That is, capable of making the best available choice for their child? (I'm not arguing 'benevolent' at all.)

I ask because I think it's rare that parents are omniscient, but rarer still that a seven-year-old can make better decisions for hir own health than hir parents. This while I fully understand the cases you (I think) have in mind, where the parents lock the daughter away because she dates the wrong boy, or the son because he dates any boy at all...and so on.

#73 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 01:07 PM:

Well, not rarer still. Omniscience is the rarest of all. Duh.

#74 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 01:46 PM:

heresiarch @ #71, on the contrary, parents of a 7-year-old diabetic child who failed to give him his insulin because he didn't want it would probably be found guilty of child neglect, and the child would likely be removed from their custody. Neither omniscience nor an unusual degree of benevolence are required to cause parents to take responsibility for their young child's health.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: suicide, burn injuries

The slope gets slipperier when you're dealing with adults or near-adults. For example, it's fairly common for patients with spinal cord injury or severe burns to state that "I'd rather die than live like this" or "I'd rather die than go through this painful treatment." Most of them later change their minds--even the ones who got the burns by setting themselves on fire. Do I think patients in hospitals automatically give up their autonomy? Hell no. Do I think a patient's wish to die or to discontinue treatment should always be honored? No, not always. But I'm damned glad it's not my job to make that call.

#75 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 03:06 PM:

In my experience, stories of the form "When I was a kid I wanted X, but adults made me Y" are rarely so pleasant as that one.

Because the less-unpleasant ones don't make good stories.

"When I was a kid, I wanted to play video games all day but my parents made me do my math homework" is not exactly riveting cocktail party chatter.

#76 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 04:17 PM:

Xopher @ 72: "would you accept 'well-informed' as a friendly amendment to 'omniscient'? That is, capable of making the best available choice for their child?"

The problem with "well-informed" is that, from where we are now, "well-informed" parenting through most of history is riven through with epic abuse. I mean, the whole left-handed thing. I can think of a few mainstream parenting styles that I fervently hope are in the future seen as unconscionable child abuse. But I take your point--I used "omniscient" for reasons of context.

Orthogonal to parenting, the anecdote was being used to illustrate a political point, that sometimes it's good to have someone wiser and stronger than you force you to do the right thing. That, far more than the parenting strategy, is what I was objecting to. I think Nancy's paranoia about the Overmind is well-founded, and I share it entirely. Plenty of rulers have claimed benevolence and omniscience, and none of them were right yet. Give me self-rule and self-knowledge, however imperfect, every time.

#77 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 05:40 PM:

With human parents, you can at least say that the vast majority of them leave their kids in good enough shape to reproduce. It's a low standard, but it's something.

We've got less information than that about the Overmind.

#78 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 09:14 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #77: And what information would you demand of the Overmind -- remembering that as introduced in the book, it's the next thing to God? Vastly older and larger than the human race, with powers extending well beyond our understanding of physics, but certainly including (1) all the implications of FTL capabilities including temporal manipulation (2) mass-energy reserves on at least a planetary scale, (3) Utterly alien in structure, being essentially assembled in colonial fashion -- regardless of the details of how new segments get integrated, it's not going to resemble a human mind -- or even a human society.

The thing is, it's not really a Singularity story -- internally to the story, the change is "our natural path", which would indeed make it an S-story... but plot-wise, the change comes as an intrusion, courtesy of the Overlords. (Indeed, our "retroactive racial trauma" from the incident certainly blames them!)

So the story's somewhere between "the universe [or our fate] may be stranger than we can imagine", and "my boatworld is very small, and the seacosmos is very large".

#79 ::: Richard Hershberger ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2011, 11:01 PM:

Sara @62:

I consider Victor Davis Hanson a particularly sad example. His early work on the Greek hoplites was (at least to my non-expert eye) terrific work. Then he morphed into a particularly virulent wackjob political commentator. Gingrich was never, so far as I can tell, anything more than a politician with pretensions playing at being a historian. Hanson was the real deal before stepping off the edge.

#80 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 07:46 AM:

#78 ::: David Harmon

That's a good question-- for all I know, my attitude is that of a caterpillar looking at a butterfly and saying "You'll never get me up in one of those things".

However, we really don't know that it's benevolent. It might be a criminal outcast in the community of overminds for abuse of nascent races.

And we probably couldn't understand the law or the standards very well, even if it was.

It's a singularity story in the sense that it's about tech beyond a certain point being beyond human comprehension, and people being changed beyond recognition by it.

I'm willing to bet that Clarke intended it to be a story of transcendence.

#81 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 09:17 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #80:

And we probably couldn't understand the law or the standards very well, even if it was.

Nor would we necessarily appreciate our "just deserts" under such a system, given it's attending to priorities far beyond our own comfort. I.e., "no, you do not get to go strip-mining random asteroids (and killing Talebba), contaminate a dozen nascent ecologies with your bacteria, etc.

It's a singularity story in the sense that it's about tech beyond a certain point being beyond human comprehension, and people being changed beyond recognition by it.

Where do you find that? The Overlords certainly have overwhelming superiority of tech, but not to the point where we can't pull stunts like that "suitcase trick". The Overmind and its nascent component are not a technological development! I'm sure Clarke did intend it to be about "transcendence", but in going from there to fleshing out a plot, he brought in all sorts of other issues.

#82 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 10:20 PM:

David Harmon @70: As of last month, when I saw him at a party, Nico was alive and well.

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2011, 10:29 PM:

I seem to remember that, circa 1980, Phil devGuere - who later went on the revive "Twilight Zone" - had worked on a miniseries adaptation of "Childhood's End" for Universal.

Other movies that were never made - "Caves of Steel", with Paul Newman. I know, there was a British TV version starring Peter Cushing, but little of it survived.

#84 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:44 AM:

One of my favorite absurdities in Davis's proclamation is the part about the great strategic advantages gained by no longer having to defend Richmond. If it's such a good idea, why didn't they do it earlier?

The same goes for Gingrich. If he really wanted to run an unconventional campaign, why was he running a conventional one?

And as long as we're asking all these questions, where's Power Girl's mangy yellow cat when you need it?

#85 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 03:18 AM:

Teresa @ 84: In both cases, the earlier conventional tactics were strategic gambits leading up to the final devastating surprise, from which the wrongfooted foe could scarcely hope to recover.

#86 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:11 AM:

Teresa @84

I suppose there was an argument that an army protecting Richmond also threatened Washington, but that went both ways. The Union fielded an army to protect Washington which also threatened Richmond. There was a somewhat futile balance. The Union was able to assemble the resources to fight offensive campaigns elsewhere.

The Confederacy had a choice. The Union didn't. In the short war which both sides expected, it wouldn't have mattered much. Still, think what Lee and Jackson might have done if they hadn't been tied down by the political need to protect Richmond

#87 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 08:01 AM:

Richmond? I didn't realize the Civil War had spread all the way to the Bay Area.
("Not that Richmond, Serge.")
Oh.
Nevermind.

#88 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 11:02 AM:

Lila #74:

I think suicidal people (both with and without recognizable cause) make up a hard case for anyone who cares about individual autonomy. I'm very much in favor of an adult's right to decide he's going to climb Mt Everest, go skydiving, go to South Africa or Haiti and sample the offerings of the low-rent brothels, or see how much heroin his body can handle. And yet, I'm damned sure that that same adult, found by the police or paramedics despondent and with incompetently cut wrists bleeding slowly, needs to be taken to the hospital, treated, and put under some kind of psych treatment to try to get him back into some kind of equilibrium.

I don't have a good principle to apply here, and perhaps there is no coherent principle.

#89 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:33 PM:

albatross @ #88:

As you say, there may be no coherent principle, and by continuing along this line I may be proving myself a mug, but a thought did spring to mind, and it is this: there is a difference between an activity with an incidental risk of death and an activity where death is the point and purpose.

#90 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:46 PM:

albatross, #88: IMO, part of the problem is the application of the word "suicidal" to people who have made a rational decision, based on incurable physical health issues, not to drag things out to the bitter end. It's both inaccurate and unfair to conflate them with people who have mental-health problems.

(OTOH, it's also important to have proper pain management, because people who are not in intractable pain are able to be more rational about the rest of their quality of life.)

#91 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 01:03 PM:

Paul A @ 89... I may be proving myself a mug

Time for a drinking song?

#92 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:38 PM:

Paul A. #89: Well, that's part of the point of albatross' example! One distinctive feature of suicide attempts from depressed or distraught people is that the attempt is often halfhearted or incompetent. (Not that people can't die of those too! Worst ever means of suicide: a bottle full of Tylenol.)

Of course, that's not always the case... I still remember the last message from a person on Walkers in Darkness, who I knew only as "FighterVet": "Hot damn, my cyanide salts came!" It's good to want to rescue people, but you also need to recognize that you can't save everyone, and pushing too hard will backfire.

And then there's the "amok" pattern, currently appearing as "suicide by policeman"....

#93 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 04:29 PM:

Paul A @ 89... I may be proving myself a mug

Serge @ 91: Time for a drinking song?

If you insist on proving it then you're eventually going to wind up with the Philosopher's Drinking Song, and that never ends well.

#94 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 04:37 PM:

David Wald @ 93... the Philosopher's Drinking Song

Dare I ask?

In a couple of weeks, I'll be at a social event where people may indulge in the Jack Burton Drinking Game, wherein one must ingest some kind of drink every time philosopher/trucker Burton says "What?!" in "Big Trouble in Little China".

#96 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 04:53 PM:

TexAnne @ 95...

Eric Idle, eh?
"I drink therefore I am"

#97 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:15 PM:

The Blowout scam (under any name) isn't in the "List of confidence tricks" article on Wikipedia, nor does it have its own article -- which could be linked via the "Scams and confidence tricks" box at the bottom of that list.

This seems remediable by a skillful editor who knows the topic so well.... Hmm?

'Twould be lovely to link to such an article when discussing the GWB Administration.

Is the Blowout, d'y'suppose, the origin of the infamous Harvard-MBA-spread stratagem of asset-stripping that became such a plague during the 1980's, and still is the trademark of vulture firms like Mitt Romney's Bain Capital?

#98 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 07:23 PM:

The literati and their effete, cocktail-sipping, machine-gun-toting sheep may once again think they have won a battle -- but the clouds of dust they mistake for retreating Gingrich aides are in fact only advancing Gingrich intellectual artillery making ready to fire new and more advanced ideas across the ideological wastelands currently held by his opponents!

#99 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:44 PM:

Rats leaving the sinking ship.

AKA "Newt's top fundraisers resign too."

#100 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2011, 12:36 AM:

... thereby liberating Newt Gingrich even further to run his campaign his own way, without the constraints of conventional fundraising considerations!

Another lightening of the load and clearing of the deck to allow swift and surprising tactics in a campaign designed for the 21st century political battleground!

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